- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Jul
- Not Afraid to Be Me
- I Will Show You Love
- One More Try
- Back to Normal
- Burning Embers
- Paper Skin
It's weird how Kendall Payne's career path is reverse of the norm. Her 1999 debut released to the mainstream through Capitol, only to be redistributed to the Christian market through Sparrow. After parting ways with both major labels, she independently released her follow-up Grown five years later, eventually finding some distribution for it. Now she's on her own again, and you can't help wonder why, especially since Payne's songs continue to find their way onto TV soundtracks (most recently "Scratch" on Grey's Anatomy).
Maybe labels don't think folk-pop songwriters are in style nowadays. Except Payne's third album Paper Skin is more mellow piano-based pop akin to Sara Groves, Tori Amos, and Nichole Nordeman—three equally introspective women with respectable followings.
Perhaps the current music climate doesn't know what to do with Payne—too subtle for the Christian market, yet too spiritual for the mainstream. Paper Skin is largely about human frailties and the search for acceptance, including learning to trust again ("Belonging"), the ups and downs of marriage ("Fail," "Back to Normal"), and comforting victims of abuse ("Touch"). There aren't always easy answers to the raw emotions in these songs, but Payne does point toward spiritual restoration in "Burning Embers," and "I Will Show You My Love" is rife with words of comfort from God's perspective.
Payne does have a history of addressing tough topics with occasionally tough wording. "One More Try" expresses heartache from "crying over someone who will never give a damn," and "Lines" indicts insular Christian culture ("The perfect world we have constructed keeps more people out than lets them come in/Let it shine if you've got any light left").
Excuses aside, Payne deserves attention for another thoughtful effort with contemplative writing and a passionate voice that is both delicate and bold. Paper Skin is more stripped down and indie sounding than her previous efforts, but that's very appropriate for an album so grounded in the pains and complexities of everyday relationships. Sometimes empathy and understanding speak louder than simple Christian platitudes.